50 Unmissable Christmas Movies

11. The Lion in Winter (1968)

King Henry II invites his family to gather for Christmas not so much to show his love for them but to strike a deal with his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine to decide on the line of succession between his three sons.

You think your family Christmases are bad, try being a member of the Plantagenet royal family in the 12th century. There is little good will or affection between Henry, Eleanor, Richard, Geoffrey and John; they plot and scheme and try repeatedly to one-up each other, to win. The medieval setting is handsomely mounted and the frankly ridiculous cast including a young Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton performs James Goldman’s witty script to the back rows, Peter O’Toole and an Oscar-winning Katharine Hepburn having the time of their lives with their acidic verbal jousting. SSP

12. Black Christmas (1974)

When discussing the origins of the Slasher genre, one quickly jumps to Halloween or, before that, Psycho. Though both had their own impact on what would become the horror sub-genre, it is Black Christmas that is often unfairly forgotten about.

Director Bob Clark places the horror flick in two unlikely settings, in winter and in a sorority house. The latter is used as the hunting ground for a stalker to pick college girls off one by one. Though the Christmas season is generally considered alongside joy and goodwill, Clark flips this on its head and uses the dark, icy backdrop to create an appropriately creepy atmosphere. Decorated with tinsel, snow and bodies, Black Christmas takes everything you’ve come to expect from a Christmas movie and totally inverts it to create one of the greatest horror films of all time. MC

13. A Christmas Story (1983)

A monumental seasonal film in North America more than it is in the rest of the world, Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story is a seasonal offering that almost everyone with a television has seen at some point in the past forty years.

Set forty years earlier (the 1940s), A Christmas Story tells of one young boy’s wish to convince his parents and Santa Claus that he deserves a BB gun for Christmas. With comedy hijinks aplenty, and an easy to understand plot that has transcended generations, A Christmas Story is an eternal hit and an unmissable Christmas film. JW

14. Die Hard (1988)

John McTiernan’s 1988 action movie Die Hard is arguably the most contentious entry on this list given the seemingly eternal debate surrounding its status as a Christmas movie. The film, starring Bruce Willis in a breakout role that changed the shape of Hollywood masculinity from muscle-bound heroes to more recognisable figures, was released during the summer but it would be difficult to dismiss its seasonal themes.

Not only is Die Hard set at Christmas, but its story of New York cop John McClane visiting Los Angeles and being forced to save his wife and her company from a group of angry terrorists (led by Love Actually’s Alan Rickman in his feature debut), prominently features key Christmas movie themes such as the restoration of the husband figure, a reuniting of loved ones, a coming together of a community (in this case those suffering the terrorists inside and those fighting them from the outside) – it’s basically It’s a Wonderful Life and is easily one of the most beloved Christmas movies ever released. JW

Recommended for you: Die Hard vs Lethal Weapon: The Battle for Christmas

15. Scrooged (1988)

From Superman (1978) and Christmas-adjacent Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner comes a 1980s version of the classic Charles Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol” set in the ultra-capitalist, fast-moving world of broadcast media in the United States.

Despite disputes between director and star as regards the main character’s direction, Scrooged features positive elements from both of them. Donner’s exceptional Hollywood filmmaking talent ensures that lesser scenes never feel absent of intrigue (visually) and Bill Murray’s expectantly deadpan take informs a troubled character. It’s fun, funny, and features a collaboration between two icons of the screen – what could be more Christmassy than that? JW

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